NBA 2K13 hands-on preview puts the focus on fundamentals

collisions in the paint nba 2k13 preview kevin durant

Full disclosure: I haven’t played a proper NBA game since NBA Live ’96 on the Super Nintendo, a game whose greatest simulation flourish was adding some yellow pixels to Dennis Rodman’s head. I’ve indulged in basketball games since, but I’m talking NBA Jam and NBA Street, games that have as much to do with proper pro fundamentals as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies does with real military operations. I am familiar with the NBA 2K series’ reputation—profitable for Take-Two, popular with players, respected by critics—not its play, so the granular changes in NBA 2K13 are lost on me. This is a good thing. I can assess whether this early version of the game, still two months from release and in need of some polish, is tight without being blinded by expectation and previous experience.

First impression? NBA 2K13 is a damn fine game at its most basic level.

My demo with the game, reliving the 2012 final between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, was glitzed up with gilded logos and an intro sequence intercutting the digitally recreated players and live footage. The cumulative effect of NBA 2K13’s presentation is a game that looks and feels, for better and worse, like watching an NBA game live on television. That authenticity is nice for super fans, but you’re here to play basketball, not recreate the feeling of watching it at home.

collisions in the paint nba 2k13 preview derrick rose

Luckily, NBA 2K13 does this markedly better than other sports games that look to recreate the TV experience as well as the sport. Madden NFL never manages to feel like you’re playing football. NBA 2K13 on the other hand makes you feel like you’re really playing high-level basketball to an impressive degree, and it’s more exciting minute to minute than many actual regular season NBA games that don’t heat up until the final minutes.

Controls are outwardly complex, but impressively fluid in execution. Shooting in 2K13 is mapped to the X button now rather than the right stick as in 2K12, freeing up the stick for dribbling maneuvers. For anyone that still wants to use the stick for shooting, pulling the left trigger and flicking the stick will let you do it the old way. Holding that left trigger when passing lets you mix in bounce passes, which lets you set up some exciting plays when things get crowded. The Xbox 360 pad’s left bumper is now used for throwing a pick, and holding it down brings up a little meter that, when green, shows you when to release for a roll.

The smooth control is coupled with re-done collision, so when you push Chris Bosh into the paint and he knocks someone down, it looks and feels human rather than like a canned game animation. 2K stresses that the AI is improved as well, better reacting to mistakes, aggression, and defense. Not being able to compare it to past entries, I really couldn’t speak to the improvements, but I will say that the other team felt like real opponents. They weren’t pushovers but they also didn’t have that omniscient feel that bad computer sports AI can often have that ruins single-payer matches.

collisions in the paint nba 2k13 preview blake griffin

2K13 also looks to improve how it sells character, but those elements are still under wraps.  The series has focused on Legends in recent years, letting you play as the stars of old like Michael Jordan, but the emphasis this time out is on new players. (Legends will still be in 2K13, and on the disc, so the feature isn’t getting relegated to the land of DLC.) Part of this focus is Signature Skills, 30 modifiers given to certain players that make them more useful on the court. Superstars like Lebron James can have a maximum of 5 skills, but many players have just one or two. I wasn’t allowed to get a look at the specific skills though, and the rep showing off the game still had no idea how or even if Signature Skills would be looped into My Player mode. (My Player is getting changed up, but 2K isn’t talking about it yet.)

NBA 2K13 feels good. It’s exciting to play, and it’s even exciting just to watch, a rarity for a sports simulation. Vets will have to decide for themselves how the new passing, dribbling, and shooting feel compared to 2K12, but to the layman, the new controls feel smooth and natural.

First impression: This demo was good enough that it made me want to play an NBA game again. 

Gaming

The third DLC for ‘Spider-Man’ swings onto PlayStation 4 next week

The third part of Spider-Man's episodic DLC, Silver Lining, releases on December 21. The episode focuses on Silver Sable and Hammerhead, and it includes three new suits for Peter Parker.
Gaming

Want to share your Xbox One games? Here's how to do it

Sharing games on modern consoles is possible, but it takes a few steps. Here's how to start sharing games on your Xbox One console, so friends and family can easily access your library.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Gaming

Spawn creator suggests the antihero could appear in ‘Mortal Kombat 11’

Spawn creator Todd McFarlane hinted that the comic book antihero could join the cast of Mortal Kombat 11 during a Reddit AMA. Spawn previously appeared in SoulCalibur II on the original Xbox.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Gaming

Check out the best deals from GameStop’s Game Days Sale

GameStop has hundreds of games available for discounted prices between now and December 25 as part of its Game Days Sale. We checked out the deals and have rounded up all of the best Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One deals here.
Gaming

Grabbing a Switch for the holidays? Here's what you need to know to play online

If you want to play online multiplayer on Switch, you'll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Here's what you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online, from price to features to the awesome library of NES games.
Gaming

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.
Gaming

Trash at 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Use this guide to train up and get good

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the biggest game in the entire series, and it can be overwhelming for newcomers not used to the universe-colliding fighting game. Here's what you need to know when you're starting.
Gaming

Where we droppin’ (presents)? Perfect ‘Fortnite’ gifts for the fans in your life

Chances are someone on your holiday shopping list is a fan of Fortnite. As the most popular game on the planet, there are plenty of Fortnite-themed gift options available for purchase in stores and online. Here are the best ones we found.
Gaming

Have a spooky dance party at an abandoned mansion with Fortnite's new challenges

The Fortnite season 7, week 2 challenges have arrived in Battle Royale. From searching for chests to dancing off at an abandoned mansion, here's how to do them and the rewards you get for completing them.
Deals

The Super NES Classic is the perfect holiday gift for Nintendo lovers

Whether you're a long-time Nintendo fan looking to relive the 16-bit glory days or just doing some holiday shopping, the SNES Classic -- now in stock at multiple retailers for $80 -- might just be the perfect Christmas gift for gamers of…
Gaming

Sega Genesis classics now playable on Amazon Fire TV, no retro console required

Sega released the SEGA Classics app for Amazon Fire TV devices, allowing gamers to play Sega Genesis classics without having to buy a retro console. The $15 app contains 25 games, including three remastered Sonic titles.